I am continually amazed just how much my past affects my present. I am the person I am today because of the culmination of all my past experiences. Some of these experiences make me a better person, and some of them make me a bit more difficult or complicated.

It is scientifically proven that a person experiences trauma even before they are born. If a pregnant mother is in a car accident, she experiences trauma, increasing her heart rate and passing that trauma on to her baby. The funny thing about trauma is that people don’t really like to admit that they’ve experienced it. We’ve all seen Grey’s Anatomy, so most of us believe that something has to be horrific in order to be deemed traumatic. An icicle has to pierce you in the stomach or you have to be rescued from drowning just in the nick of time. Really, trauma is anything that shuts down the upper brain, putting your body into the fight or flight mode. I would argue that everyone has experienced trauma of some degree at least once in life.

However, despite having this knowledge, I am still amazed at just how little I think about my past experiences and just how rarely I admit that some could be classified as traumatic. If I’m being honest, I can admit that I don’t like to focus on painful pieces of my past too much. There are memories that still make me sick to my stomach when I think about them in depth, and there are songs that I don’t like to listen to because I get flashbacks to something upsetting. Recently, I’ve been very focused on the future, so focused that I haven’t realized just how subconsciously overcome I’ve been with my past.

Someone called me out this week, and it made me think about why I behave the way I do. I realized how much of a hold my past still has on me. This isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it is good to remember the past and learn from mistakes, unhealthy relationships, or painful confrontations. Other times, it can hold me back. Some mistakes keep me up at night even though no one else remembers that I made them. Sometimes unhealthy relationships keep me from trying to build new ones. Why try to meet new people when being on my own works well? And, honestly, confrontations always seem to be painful no matter how many times I force myself to confront.

I’m not sure my past will ever let go of me, and I know I wouldn’t really want that because it is the foundation of who I am now, metaphorically speaking, roots to a plant. It’s good to know, however, that there is a moment where I get to decide when to stay rooted and when to surpass my previous experiences and attempt to make new, better memories.